The sophomore full-length album from New Zealand's Grayson Gilmour, 2017's superb Otherness finds him moving further into the emotive, elegantly layered electronic sound he's been exploring since his debut, 2010's No Constellation. However, where that album showcased his lyrical baroque pop inclinations, full of piano, acoustic guitar, strings, and sundry other instruments, Otherness reveals his knack for crafting epic, slow-burn, '80s-style anthems that straddle the borders between EDM, indie electronica, and classic singer/songwriter pop. Thankfully, he hasn't completely done away with his organic baroque pop vibe, and cuts like the lushly romantic "Twenty-One Tattoo" and the yearning "Be a Beacon" balance purple-hued synth backdrops with gorgeously attenuated orchestral string parts. Similarly engaging are tracks like the sparkling "Better Life," with its reverb-laden guitar accents, and the downtempo-meets-shoegaze-inflected "Sundowning," with its swirling strings and keyboard washes set unexpectedly against a sophisticated, brushed jazz drum pattern. These are endlessly romantic, deeply felt songs that hinge nicely upon Gilmour's soft, breathy croon, a sound that brings to mind a mix of Imogen Heap, Todd Rundgren, and Ride lead singer Mark Gardener. In that sense, fans of similarly inclined bands like M83 and James Blake will also find plenty to connect with here. It also doesn't hurt that Gilmour has a gift for memorable melodic statements, and many of these tracks stick in your ear and beg for repeated spins. Ultimately, with Otherness, Gilmour has crafted a sophisticated, artfully rendered album of electronic music that breathes and pulses with a human heart.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar